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You know you should be backing up your desktop computers and servers but you dont


You know you should be backing up your desktop computers and laptops, which frequently store the most recent information at your company. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that you and your colleagues probably don’t. Why? Backing up a PC is time consuming and not as easy as it should be, so you put it off, and then you put it off again.

If some of your staff actually takes the trouble to back up their PCs, they’re probably doing it infrequently, and may in fact be doing it incorrectly. When it comes time to actually recover files and data you may be unpleasantly surprised.

Operating without a backup strategy is risky behavior if your company is highly dependent on applications and information. If your company falls under federal regulations such as HIPAA or the Sarbanes Oxley Act, you may be in the unsavory position of having to swallow a fairly steep fine. You don’t have to be a large hospital to fall under HIPAA, you could just be small doctor’s office.

That’s why just about any business needs to devise a workable strategy for backing up its desktop and laptop PC’s and, even more important, for restoring that information when a file is corrupted,or lost or when a power failure or natural disaster takes computer systems down.

For most small – and medium-sized businesses there are four basic ways to do backup:

  • Backup to Tape….this is now obsolete technology by the way
  • Backup to Disk–DAS
  • Backup to Disk–NAS
  • Backup to Disk–SAN

Backup to Tape

Tape was the chosen medium for backup for many years, thanks to its low cost and high reliability. Tape also has the advantage of portability, which meant it can be taken off site easily.

Tape is barely a viable backup medium today. and tape drives have major drawbacks in comparison to today’s other backup solutions:

It’s slow Compared to disk storage, tape performance is slow. While tape was viable for backing the volumes of business data typical in the past, data storage has grown so enormously and backup windows have shrunk so much in most organizations, that there is often not enough time in the day or night to execute a full tape backup.

It is difficult and time consuming Somebody must be routinely responsible for loading, rotating and changing tapes-typically on a daily or weekly basis- and many small businesses don’t have the staff time and expertise to take on that responsibility.

It’s not easily accessible Tape is not a random access medium. Restoring data from tape requires considerable staff time to find, load, and access a file from the tape.

It’s not always reliable Tape backup devices such as autoloaders and tape libraries have mechanical parts that will fail. If tape backup is not handled the right way, you may never find out about a mechanical failure or user error until you need to restore data from tape.

Despite these drawbacks, there are much better backup solutions today.

Backup to Disk

Hard disk storage used to be expensive and unreliable, but over the years prices have come down and reliability has gone up so much that disk is now a very viable medium for backup as long as you are backing up to more then one hard drive per backup. Backing up to one of those cheap external hard drives is really cutting corners and is not considered a professional backup solution.

The advantages of disk-based backup are many:

It’s fast There’s no comparison between the performance of disk-based backup and restore and tape. What might take hours when you’re backing up to tape could take minutes when you’re backing up to or restoring data from a hard disk.

In addition to traditional backup there are also other useful disk-based data protection methods. For example, replication copies data from one disk to a second disk at a separate location. For companies that have little or no backup window, there’s little alternative to the performance of disk based data protection.

It’s easy Once the disk storage is installed, there’s no need to load, rotate or change anything for a long time. You can configure an automatic backup strategy and then let it run on its own.

It’s easily accessible Hard disks are random access devices, so retrieving a file from a hard disk is almost instantaneous and can usually be done by the user. With a tape you often have to wait several minutes while someone loads the tape and the backup software winds the tape over to the correct spot for retrieving the file.

Disk-based backup can be accomplished using DAS, NAS, or a SAN.

DAS backup can be either PC- or server-based:

PC-based – You can attach an external hard drive to each PC and configure PC-based backup software to do regular backups. This can be practical for one or two PC’s, but it can quickly become impractical for a rapidly growing small business with lots of PCs. You usually have to depend on the PC users to let backups take place, which is risky, particularly if users are on the road frequently.

Server based – You can install a backup server with its own DAS and backup all your PCs over the LAN. This is a great way to have centralized control over the backup process. However, it does require setting up and maintaining a server and server operating system and software, with all the requisite tuning and updating. Servers can also become a network bottleneck if they’re pulling data off of several PCs over the LAN.

Nevertheless, DAS based backup can be a viable solution for many small businesses as a speedier alternative to tape. Some organizations back up PCs to DAS for performance and then back up server-based DAS to tape as a secondary measure for portability, taking the tapes off site for storage where they can be retrieved in the event of a local disaster.

NAS

NAS makes a great backup solution for many small businesses because it’s easy to set up and maintain. Like network-based DAS backup it lets you push all your PC backups over the network to a single storage device, but unlike DAS, which has to be attached to a server, NAS can be located anywhere on the LAN.

Some NAS products come with their own tightly integrated backup and replication software tuned and preconfigured to work with that device. That can make setting up and implementing your backup strategy quick and easy. And backups to NAS can be automated so there’s little need for a staff person who has other things to do to take on the daily task of backup, as is required with tape backup.

If you’re looking for extra protection from natural disasters, look for a NAS backup solution that can also replicate over a wide area network to another storage device. You get the offsite advantages of tape without the tape handling issues.

SAN

With their fast, block-based disk architecture, Storage Area Networks are great solutions for high performance backups. By placing storage on a specialized storage network, SANs take the burden of backup off your regular corporate LAN so the performance of other network applications doesn’t get bogged down.

You don’t have to know Fibre Channel technology to operate a SAN. iSCSI is simple to use, offers very good SAN performance, and runs over typical Ethernet switches.

Even simpler, however, is taking advantage of the iSCSI capabilities offered by some of today’s NAS products. Many NAS units can partition off some storage as fast block based iSCSI SAN storage. Plug your PC or backup server into the storage with an Ethernet cable, do some simple configuration on the storage device and the host server or PC, and you can run high-speed SAN style backups on a portion of your NAS, while the rest of the device serves files over the LAN.

The bottom line is if you do not take backing your data seriously, you will when your server or computer crashes and you loose all your data. Will you care then?

Posted in Computer Repair, Computers, Data Backups, Data StorageComments (0)


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